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The Goonies (4K Blu-ray Review)

2020 has been a very interesting time for the movie world.  Home entertainment sales have gone up a bit, thanks to digital (unfortunately) and also DVD (even more unfortunately…). The most wonderful thing though is that 4K catalog titles are on the rise.  We keep seeing a steady stream of announcements and box sets, making us 4K collectors salivate with all the new editions we can get lost in as the months go slowly on.  The Goonies is no exception, and is in fact one of my favorite films, and one I’ve been anticipating on the format ever since we were blessed with it!

Film

While I’m fairly sure I don’t have to, I will preface my critical review of The Goonies with its synopsis.  If you’ve been living under a rock and haven’t seen the film yet, I urge you to stop reading after the overview and skip to the technical review to avoid any spoilers.

The Goonies plunges a band of small heroes into a swashbuckling surprise-around-every corner quest beyond their wildest dreams!  Following a mysterious treasure map into a spectacular underground realm of twisting passages, outrageous booby-traps, and a long-lost pirate ship full of golden doubloons, the kids race to stay one step ahead of a family of bumbling bad guys… and a mild-mannered monster with a face only a mother could love.

The Goonies stars Sean Astin (The Lord of the Rings trilogy), Academy Award® nominee (2009) Josh Brolin (No Country for Old Men, Avengers: Endgame), Corey Feldman (The Lost Boys franchise), Martha Plimpton (TV’s “Raising Hope”), Ke Huy Quan (Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom) Joe Pantoliano (The Matrix) and Lupe Ontiveros (TV’s “Lies in Plain Sight”).

And now… An Appreciation of The Goonies…

Where can I even begin with The Goonies? The film is a forever favorite for many movie fans. The idea that a movie made for kids that wasn’t a huge hit initially could be so iconic and so revered 35 years later is quite astounding.  Take a group of ragtag kids and send them on an adventure.  The premise is simple but pure gold.  I honestly cannot imagine a person who grew up with this movie not wanting to be one of the kids who got to go on a one of a kind treasure hunt.  Not only that, but the film was made in 1985.  A banner year for 80’s films, this isn’t a modern kid’s film.  The foul language, sexual jokes, and even moments that would be far too scary for children today still feel refreshing, fun, and somehow innocent despite their more adult leanings.

The Goonies is also stuffed with famous faces. Trying to imagine the film with any other cast just doesn’t compute.  There is infectious chemistry bred into the film and the banter and friendship really come through. Even the trio of villains always seem like they’re having a fantastic time.  The film often feels like it has some magic to it.  From the opening titles to the end credits, there really aren’t any dull moments.  Even quieter scenes carry with them an immersive quality that doesn’t lend itself to just any film.  I put this magic quality on Chris Columbus, Steven Spielberg, and Richard Donner.  That is a storied collaboration to me as well.  Columbus would bring the special kind of zaniness to other films like Home Alone and Mrs. Doubtfire later and this was just a taste of what was to come.  Donner had made a name for himself with films like The Omen and Superman, proving huge productions and “cursed” films could be done with ease by him.  This was his first film after The Toy (A notoriously bad Richard Pryor film that holds a place in my “so-bad-it’s-good” hall of fame) and what a comeback! We all know about Steven Spielberg’s contributions to the film world, and this is just another link in his chain of iconic films.

The score, the soundtrack and the production design are equally impressive.  Pop songs by Cyndi Lauper, Luther Vandross, Teena Marie, Philip Bailey, and more play in the background and read as a guest list of greats on the album sleeve.  Dave Grusin works his magic on a swashbuckling score with a lite jazz theme for the end titles as well.  The look of the film is also special. The Goondocks where the children live is sort of shabby and Brand and Mikey’s home is in shambles, as they’re packing to move.  It all looks so authentic.  As we work our way to the restaurant and the underground maze of the treasure hunt, we are brought further into this world by the darkness and dank.

I can’t finish my tribute without also calling out the insane amount of culturally referenced items peppering the film.  From Sloth (“Hey You Guys!”) to Chunk’s Interrogation, to “Goonies Never Say Die…” there is no shortage of memorable moments from the film.  Lines come to fans like folklore, and whole scenes have been discussed in detail like we’re showing someone something new. It’s incredible to be a fan of The Goonies and discuss the film with another fan.  You can talk forever about a “little” 2-hour movie!

I have to preface my video technical review by just airing my disappointment now.  There is not a single word of praise I have for the new 4K transfer of The Goonies. There are no noticeable upgrades, changes or flourishes to make this one substantially better than the decade-old Blu-ray.  With the high bitrate that accompanies the film most of the time, I expected so much more. This is the kind of transfer you wouldn’t show to someone who is reluctant to see the benefit of 4K, and that is hugely disappointing.

Video

  • Encoding: HEVC / H.265
  • Resolution: 4K (2160p)
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Layers:BD-66
  • Clarity/Detail: Big bummer here — To my eyes, this classic film has been scrubbed down by DNR. Clarity is on par with the standard Blu-ray from 2009.  There aren’t any truly noticeable upgrades to the clarity of the film, save for the ending scene which features the only sunny day moment in the film.  Other than that, dense darkness washes out details and some details are wiped away in the hope of crisp 4K clarity.  Unfortunately, none of that is here, instead giving much of the film a waxy and soft-focus look.  Close-ups don’t even improve the situation for those eagle-eyed viewers.
  • Depth: Depth is another issue point with this new 4K transfer. There is little to no discernable difference to this transfer than the one done for Blu-ray 10+ years ago.  There is an overall flatness to the look that isn’t helped by some of the location shooting.  Especially at Mikey’s house, it sometimes feels as if those moments were shot with an odd lens, giving it an almost keyhole look to some shots, especially when they’re in the living room before heading to the attic to explore the museum artifacts. Things don’t improve along the way in the depth department either.
  • Black Levels: The darker look of the 4K disc doesn’t always translate for black levels either. They too, look very similar to the bundled Blu-ray.  The blacks often look lighter than black, and even though there are scenes primarily shot in dark locations or sets, they lean more towards the grey side overall.
  • Color Reproduction: Yet another bummer (and yes, the hits will keep coming….) is color reproduction. Where the Blu-ray colors ran just a tad hotter, the color palette in 4K is a lot more washed out and drab. Given the rainy-day look of the film, it’s not a shocker to me, but jeez – I don’t remember The Goonies looking this dull.  Even the famously designed set piece for the pirate ship is blah, besides the blue-colored water.  I guess you’d call the new color reproduction drab.
  • Flesh Tones: Flesh tones all lean towards the look of pinkish Silly Putty. Not one person’s skin tone looks different from any other and everyone has that pasty wax museum sheen from the DNR application too.
  • Noise/Artifacts: The grain structure is gone, the clarity from said structure has gone with it.

Audio

  • Format(s): English Dolby DTS-HD MA 5.1, French (Canada) 5.1 Dolby Digital, German 5.1 Dolby Digital, Italian 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish (Castilian) 5.1 Dolby Digital, Chinese 5.1 Dolby Digital, Czech
  • Subtitles: English SDH, French, German SDH, Italian SDH, Spanish (Castilian), Dutch, Mandarin (Simplified), Mandarin (Traditional), Korean, Spanish (Latin America), Czech, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish, Thai
  • Dynamics: Dynamically speaking, this mix is almost identical to the Dolby TrueHD mix that accompanied the 2009 Blu-ray. Sonically it’s almost identical.  That being said, the mix is faithful to the source and done in such a way that you don’t miss what might have been had they bothered to make an immersive new mix. Sound effects sound of their time, and there is no huge complaint over how everything sounds in the dynamics department.
  • Height: N/A
  • Low Frequency Extension: LFE is serviceable and of its time. There are a few moments for deep rumble, but they’re few and far between.  This has always been the case for the film, so it’s not a surprise to hear the mix that way here.
  • Surround Sound Presentation: Surrounds work best when the Goonies begin their journey down under the rotten restaurant. You hear water leaking, rocks rolling, footfalls crunching… Nothing revolutionary, but perfectly fitting for this film.
  • Dialogue Reproduction: Dialogue sounds fine, if not a bit tinny, but again, that’s to be expected with this particular mix.

Extras

Extras for The Goonies are housed on the bundled Blu-ray, itself a reprint of the 2009 disc.  The film comes in two incarnations – A standard 4K/Blu-ray/Digital set and a more deluxe edition via Amazon that has a collectible box, some patches, and a treasure map.  The extras are as follows:

  • Cast Audio Commentary
  • Hidden Treasures Pop-Up Track
  • “The Making of The Goonies” Vintage Featurette
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Cyndi Lauper “Goonies R Good Enough” Music Video
  • Theatrical Trailer

Summary

In the end, what was made as a modest film for older kids has become a legendary phenomenon.  I have been watching The Goonies since I was 8 years old and continue to get the warm and fuzzies every time I watch it.  This was the film that introduced me to Sean Astin and Josh Brolin and encouraged me to truffle shuffle and also, more seriously, showed me how to use determination to reach a goal. More importantly, the film showed me the power of friendship to its truest compacity.  The kids in this movie are more than friends.  They’ve bonded and become family and are doing everything they can to save their homes.  It’s great stuff.  I wish I could say the 4K treatment has been kind to The Goonies, but one can only hope that Warner Brothers decides to revisit the film for another pass in the Ultra HD world.

In tribute to Brand, Mikey, Chunk, Data, Mouth, Andy, Stef, and even Sloth… Goonies Never Say Die…. And I hope the legend and the film live on and are loved forever! HEY YOU GUYS!!!!

**These are paid Amazon links**

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